The lull of the off season is slowly but surely taking its effect. With the knowledge that there won’t be any of the usual weekend dramatics of the Premier League taking place, at least for the good part of 3 months, it is but a relief that the European Championships will help ease the passage of life during these dark times.
This could be one of the most closely contested Euro’s in recent times. With teams stronger than ever, the competition is going to be very intense. Arsenal is well represented this time in Poland Ukraine. Here are some thoughts on all the 16 teams.
I have always found Poland to be an irritating participant in international competition. Not because they are average or something. Just because their names are so freaking complicated. I mean why would anyone want to have a surname like Błaszczykowski or Matuszczyk. How the hell are these pronounced. Anyways, the point is Poland qualified automatically as the hosts of the tournament, and I think they will have a hard time. There are of course some fine individuals, including our very own keeper Wojciech Szczesny. He has been held highly by German goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn after a virtuoso display against Germany in September 2011. Apart from that, there aren’t too many household names, not that anyone would want them. Błaszczykowski, the captain has been instrumental in his club’s successive Bundesliga titles, and so has his clubmate Robert Lewandowski, who scored 30 goals in 46 games for Borussia Dortmund last season. He has attracted the attentions of many of Europe’s top clubs. Arsenal’s second choice goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski, who is also his country’s second choice, has been ruled out with an injury. Poland are in a group, which has 4 teams, almost equally talented as the other, and home advantage may help them progress from the group, but after that they will have their work cut out.
Prediction : Will qualify from the group stages into the quarters, and then get knocked out.
The Gunners don’t have too many deep Greek connections. As far as I remember, the only Greek player to play for the Gunners is Efstathios Tavlaridis. He left the Gunners after a single league appearance, and has not been selected for his nation since 2005. The Greeks pulled off a shock Euro win in 2004, when they defeated Portgual 1-0 in the final, in Lisbon. Prior to that, in the group stages, they beat the Portugese and drew the Spaniards, before losing to Russia, qualifying 2nd from the group. They managed to shock defending champions France in the quarter finals, thanks to a goal from Angelos Charisteas, and then they dumped Czech Republic, through an extra time goal from Traianos Dellas. Their gutsy defending and opportunistic football won them the much coveted trophy. Since then, the Greek side hasn’t seen much success on an international level. The Greeks topped their qualifying group, which consisted tricky opposition, like Croatia, Israel, Latvia, Georgia and Malta. With the country in deep financial turmoil, and many Greek clubs even unable to pay their players wages, it ain’t a great time for the Greeks. Probably the most famous Greek name right now is Celtic striker Georgios Samaras. Captain Giorgios Karagounis is a well recognized individual in European football, and so are the likes of Dimitris Salpagidis, Vasilis Torosidis, Theofanis Gekas and Kostas Katsouranis.
Prediction : Knocked out after the group stages.
The Russians are more of a dark horse in every tournament they enter, because of their unpredictable performances. After a poor showing in Euro 2004, where they could only win one game in the group stages, beating eventual champions Greece, they were a much improved and praised performance in Euro 2008. After heavily losing to Spain, they narrowly beat Greece, and then Sweden to qualify for the quarter finals. Here, they beat tournament favorites Netherlands 3-2 in extra time, in dramatic fashion, but then went on to lose to eventual champions Spain 3-0 in the semi-finals. They are captained by, none other than our very own Andrey Arshavin. The Russian played only 3 games in EURO 2008, scoring twice and making one, which saw him being included in the UEFA squad for the tournament. Other famous names in the Russian squad are highly sought after goalkeeper Igor Aknfeev, former Chelsea left-back Yuri Zhirkov, once dubbed the ‘Russian Ronaldinho’, midfielders Aleksei Berezutski and Konstantin Zyryanov, and strikers Aleksandr Kerzhakov, former Sp*rs player Roman Pavlyuchenko, and in form Fulham hitman Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Russians had a pretty straightforward qualification, topping a group consisting of Republic of Ireland, Armenia, Slovakia, Macedonia and Andorra.
Prediction : Have a great chance of clearing the group stages and even the quarters, if they can keep up their form of 2008.
The Czechs, like the Russians, are another side, who results you wouldn’t want to bet upon. On their day, they can be menacing or can be equally lackluster. Tomas Rosicky, who has been in blistering form of late, captains the Czechs, who came off a qualifying group comprising World Cup winners Spain, Scotland, Lithuania and Liechtenstein. Goalkeeper Petr Cech looks to have regained his old form, which made him the best goalkeeper on the planet a few years ago. Apart from that, the Czechs have fallen behind in talent since the generation of Pavel Nedved, Jan Koller, Marek Jankulovski and Karel Poborsky went by. Jaroslav Plasil is always a threat, and so is former Liverpool, Aston Villa, Lyon and Portsmouth striker Milan Baros. Surprisingly, Bayer Leverkusen left back Michael Kadlec scored 4 of the 12 goals the Czechs scored during qualifying.
Prediction : Will get past the group, but not past the quarters.
Hang around for the rest of the groups.
Jai Arsenal 🙂